Alternative livelihoods for 500 ragpicker families

by Tiljala Society for Human and Educational Development
Alternative livelihoods for 500 ragpicker families
Alternative livelihoods for 500 ragpicker families
Alternative livelihoods for 500 ragpicker families
Alternative livelihoods for 500 ragpicker families
Alternative livelihoods for 500 ragpicker families
Alternative livelihoods for 500 ragpicker families
Alternative livelihoods for 500 ragpicker families
Alternative livelihoods for 500 ragpicker families
Alternative livelihoods for 500 ragpicker families
Alternative livelihoods for 500 ragpicker families
Alternative livelihoods for 500 ragpicker families
Alternative livelihoods for 500 ragpicker families
Aleya - set up new business and repaid grant
Aleya - set up new business and repaid grant

The Alternative Livelihood programme, thanks to your generous donations, is truly changing lives – and not only by helping increase incomes.  As a rag picker (and likely to be female) you are right at the bottom of society.  Even in the squatter camps, where most families engage in rag picking, those who are not rag pickers enjoy a higher status: they get to the front of the queue to collect water.  So by helping a woman like Aleya to switch from the despised occupation to the more dignified fruit or vegetable selling, she gains status in the community. And you’ll see from the story below that this empowered her to approach her children’s school management to demand better school dinners.  And this is exactly what will bring about real change in these communities – the confidence to assert your rights.

Anirban, Tiljala SHED’s Programme Manager, reports on one of the beneficiaries:

“Aleya is an enterprising and vibrant woman. There are eight members in the family consisting of husband, wife, four sons, one daughter and one daughter –in-law. All the members live together in a squatter near Topsia canalside. Her younger daughter studies in class IV and attends coaching regularly in our remedial education centre.

Earlier Aleya was a rag picker, but one opportunity changed her profession. On 17 June 2016 Tiljala SHED granted her Rs.8000 to help her establish an alternative livelihood. She bought vegetables from Sealdah market and sold them in her local Topsia market. Her business started profiting. Now she is earning Rs 400 to Rs 500 per day. Aleya is doing multiple businesses like printing on Flip flop ‘chappals’, she also sells a popular snack “Jhal muri” in the evening. Her older children are also involved in ‘chappal’ printing.

Aleya is a courageous lady. One day she gathered few ladies and went to her daughter’s school where the quality of the statutory mid-day meal was poor. She fought with the School Management Committee and asked the committee to provide the children with a good midday meal. Now Aleya’s financial condition has become stable and she is leading a good life. Aleya has repaid her grant totally. She wants further grants from Tiljala SHED to expand her business.”

 

About the Livelihood Programme

Since the introduction of waste compactors by the municipality, rag pickers have found their incomes have dropped by half.  In response to this crisis Tiljala SHED raised funds through GlobalGiving and ran a pilot livelihood programme through 2016.  87 small conditional grants were made to destitute families. The loans averaged Rs10,000.  Some beneficiaries received rickshaws or cycle vans and others, like Aleya, set up or invested in informal retail businesses.  The grants are conditional upon repayment into a revolving savings group fund and undertakings by the families to keep their children in education. The beneficiaries in each area have formed CIGs (credit interest groups) which are now responsible for ensuring prompt repayment and also authorising new grants.  The scheme has been very successful with 97% of beneficiaries repaying promptly into the revolving fund.  75% of the beneficiaries have been women and they report not only economic improvements but also reduction in domestic violence.

 “I have power and respect now” said Doulari from Park Circus.

 

The numbers

118    Total grants made since April 2016                                     

94      No of beneficiaries who have increased their income        

87      No of grants from original fund                                             

31      No of new grants from loans already repaid into revolving fund    

Highest grant amount =  Rs15,000

Lowest grant amount = Rs3,000

 

Impact

  • Reduced levels of domestic violence
  • Evidence of empowerment (see Aleya’s story)
  • School drop-out rates have dropped from 16% to 3%
  • Reduction in alcohol and drug use
  • Social participation has improved
  • Both adults and children taking more interest in education
Aleya - printing chappals
Aleya - printing chappals
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Morjina Bibi.  You have changed her life!
Morjina Bibi. You have changed her life!

Meet Morjina Bibi.  
She is a beneficiary of Tiljala SHED’s Livelihood Programme.  Thanks to your donation she was able to take a small loan of Rs10,000 in May 2016.  She set up a business selling vegetables.  The family income increased from Rs3500 (£44) per month before the loan to Rs12000  (£150) per month now.  She has also repaid the full amount into a revolving fund so that the money can be used to help another family.   

Morjina Bibi lives in the Topsia Canalside squatter camp, one of Kolkata’s “rag picker” communities.  They are mostly Muslim and are migrants from other parts of West Bengal and northern India.  They are generally Urdu speakers, illiterate and many lack identity documents and are therefore barred from accessing their rights and entitlements. Most of the families here depend on rag picking for a livelihood, supplemented by exploitative piecework like chappal trimming.  

710 families, averaging 6 individuals per family, live by the Topsia canal, a polluted waterway which has contaminated the ground and water in the area with heavy metals and other toxins.  There are just two drinking water taps, one at either end of the community, and these flow just twice a day, so residents need to queue to collect drinking and cooking water.  Open defecation is the norm here as the few toilets that exist cannot be kept clean through a lack of running water. Residents avoid them.

Morjina lives in a single room with her family of six. Her husband is not always at home as he has another family so Morjina is currently the only earning family member.

Under Tiljala SHED’s livelihood programme Morjina applied for and was granted Rs10,000 in May 2016 to set up a vegetable selling business.   Every day she buys vegetables from around 3000 up to 6000 INR. She pushes a mobile shop and goes to different areas to sell the vegetables and makes around Rs400 to 500 a day.  Despite the difficulties caused by demonetisation her small business has thrived.  She has repaid the loan in full and has lifted the family income from just Rs3500 per month to Rs12000.  She also reports that she has already saved Rs40000 in her bank account. She can afford good food and a good education for her children. Morjina Bibi says “I want to give my children a good future.”

Because this programme has been so very successful and there is now great demand from other families, we are coming back to our generous donors and asking you to consider a further donation. Or even making a regular commitment.  Every £100 donated will help many families as it will be granted to one family, repaid and then "recycled" to help another family.  We know it works - 97% of beneficiaries are repaying their loan on time or have already repaid.  

 

Meet Noorjahan

For every fortunate Morjina there are hundreds like Noorjahan. I met her last month in Kolkata.  I crossed the road to find out what she was collecting in her huge sack (horrible old used shoes)  and to my amazement she addressed me in English. Her aunty, she told me, had worked for some years in Ireland and had taught her English. Noorjahan is a rag picker and a pavement dweller, the most vulnerable of all Kolkata’s poor. She lives with her three children, 2 daughters and a son, and a husband who is unable to work because of an addiction to chullu (cheap country liquor) a very common affliction here. She is proud that her children are in school and she is keeping the family together on Rs100 – 150 per day (less than £2).

Noorjahan means “Light of the World”.

Noorjahan is next in line for a grant from this programme and you can help her and others like her by making a small donation. With a grant, she can set herself up in a business selling vegetables or garments, a far better prospect than rag picking. She’ll open a bank account and have the chance to save and/or borrow.  She and her children will be able to eat properly, her children will come to our after school children’s club where they are safe and supported in their health and education. Her husband may even be able to lift himself out of his cycle of despair, give up the chullu and help her out. 

  

About the Livelihood Programme

Since the introduction of waste compactors by the municipality, rag pickers have found their incomes have dropped by half.  In response to this crisis Tiljala SHED  raised funds through Global Giving  and ran a pilot livelihood programme through 2016.  87 small conditional grants were made to destitute families. The loans averaged Rs10,000.  Some beneficiaries received rickshaws or cycle vans and others, like Morjina, set up or invested in informal retail businesses.  The grants are conditional upon repayment into a revolving savings group fund and undertakings by the families to keep their children in education. The beneficiaries in each area have formed CIGs (credit interest groups) which are now responsible for ensuring prompt repayment and also authorising new grants.  The scheme has been very successful with 97% of beneficiaries repaying promptly into the revolving fund.  75% of the beneficiaries have been women and they report not only economic improvements but also reduction in domestic violence. 

 

“I have power and respect now” said Doulari from Park Circus. 

Noorjahan. Waiting for your help.
Noorjahan. Waiting for your help.
Topsia Canalside squatters, where Morjina lives
Topsia Canalside squatters, where Morjina lives
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Salim at home
Salim at home

Salim lives in a single room with his wife and four daughters. He is disabled - and uses a prosthetic "Jaipur Foot" to enable him to walk.  Before daybreak every morning he takes the train out to the wholesale market in a suburb of Barrackpore where he purchases fruit, whatever is in season, to sell from his cart on a street corner in the slum close to his home. When I visited Salim in August, he was selling guavas.  Salim was one of the fortunate recipients of a grant to help him improve his income. He explained how difficult life had been before his £80 grant. In order to buy his stock, Salim needed to borrow from the local moneylender.  Annual interest rates with these lenders are typically 36% and his repayments made it very hard for Salim to make enough money to keep his family.  The grant helped Salim to clear his debt and to buy stock.  He told me that this has doubled his daily income from Rs150 to 300 (from around £2 to £4 per day).

Under the terms of the grant Salim has promised to keep his daughters in education and to attend meetings and training courses to help him run his business and his finances better.  He has also pledged to repay the grant back into a revolving fund which will be used to help other needy families. 

Salim's story shows how your donation has been very well spent.  Salim is a hardworking and responsible person who was being crushed by a debt he couldn't clear.  The staff at Tiljala SHED knew Salim well and were delighted to be able to help him.  This grant ensures not only that Salim's family will now be more comfortable, but also that the next generation stays in education.  As time goes on Salim will repay small sums into the revolving fund and more families will benefit.

Please consider a further donation this holiday season to help others like Salim to make a better life for their families. So far you have helped 87 families. Another 250 have been identified and we need the funds to help them. 

With his smallest daughter
With his smallest daughter
Selling his guavas
Selling his guavas
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Safikul
Safikul

I had the great privilege of getting to meet a number of the beneficiaries of this livelhood project when I was in Kolkata in August.  

I want to tell you about two of them: Safikul and Nasima 

I wasn't scheduled to meet Safikul, but as we were making our precarious way along the railway tracks (the main thoroughfare through the squatter camp), he bounded up to us. He wanted to show me his new cycle van. Safikul seems younger than his years: I was surprised to hear he is married with a son and a daughter.  He is a carrier at the Sealdah Market. He explained that before you bought him his cycle van he had to hire one.  So every day, regardless of how much business he got, he had to pay away Rs100 in hiring fees. Now that he has his own van, he clears a respectable Rs 300 - 400 per day.  "I'm going to make a big business" he grinned. "You'll see the big chance in one year". I am looking forward to reporting back in a year's time!

Later I was taken to meet Nasima.  She has a jewellery stall on the street close to the Park Circus squatter camp where I met Safikul (and where she lives).  You gave her £150 to buy stock.  Before this her stall had been tiny - just a few items (hair clips combs and cheap jewellery) and very little business.  She was making Rs 50 (50 p) a day.  Her husband is a day labourer earning £4 - £5 a week - and they have 2 daughters to support.  I had to wait some time to meet Nasima because, as you can see from the photo, she was rather busy with customers.  She said that she now makes a profit of £1.50 a day, has no debt and does not have to borrow from money lenders to stock her stall.  She told me she is very happy indeed - and produced a lovely smile to show it.

I also got to spend time in the Tiljala SHED office and learn more about how this project is structured.  The grants are conditional upon a number of criteria e.g. the beneficiaries must guarantee they'll keep their children in school; that they save money where possible and reinvest; and that they ultimately contribute back into a revolving fund so that others can benefit in future; they are required to attend meetings and programmes helping them with their business skills. Now they have bank accounts under a Governement of India scheme which allows the ultra-poor to open zero balance accounts.  Slowly they are learning to make use of them and grow into a more sustainable future

So, by contributing to this project, you have lifted 87 families like these out of destitution.  Their children are attending school and they are learning business skills and good saving habits.

Please consider a further donation to this livelihood project. There are dozens more needy yet motivated and energetic people who would put your donation to very good use.  By promising to keep their children in school, Nasima and Safikul hope that they will be the last generation to live under tarpaulin and corrugated iron beside the railway.  

Thank you very much 

Safikul with his new cycle van
Safikul with his new cycle van
Nasima
Nasima
Nasima's busy roadside jewellery business
Nasima's busy roadside jewellery business

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Soni in our office to receive her grant
Soni in our office to receive her grant

Soni, a widow, resides in a small hut beside the dirty canal in Topsia. She has to work day and night to meet the expenditure of the family through rag picking. But since the Kolkata Municipal Corporation installed huge compactors around the city, there is much less waste for this vulnerable and marginalised commuity to live off.  These days Soni barely clears 100 - 150  rupees a day (less than £1.40).  Once again food prices are rising in India, placing yet more pressure on society's poorest.

Soni's only son has recently started a small business. He has a sound box with mic which he rents out for special events in the community. In this way, he is able to help his mother. To grow the business, and make a decent living they need to buy a DJ Box with other electronic gadgets which will eventually increase the revenue. They applied for a bank loan but bank rejected their loan request as they are rag pickers and there is no guarantee of income.  Depressed and frustrated they didn't know which way to turn.

In this challenging situation, Global Giving fund came as a sigh of relief for both of them. This fund will help them to grow the business. They got 12000 rupees (£110) with which they will purchase the DJ Box and other electronic gadgets. Now, they are happy. They can earn enough to keep themselves as well as to invest further in the business. Your donation through Global Giving was the game changer in their lives and they never imagined that resources from UK would open the doors for them when the banks in India have shut the doors for them.

Many families have now benefited from this project.   

Total No. of families covered: 72

Total Amount Disbursed: INR 753184 (£8000 approx)

Type of business covered: Cycle rickshaw, cycle van, selling new clothes, cobbler shop, selling female accessories, sewing machine, DJ box with music system, selling fruits, tea stall, jhaal muri selling (popular junk food), vegetable (grocery shop) selling, satoo selling stall, imitation jewellery selling door to door, buying scrap-making and  selling slippers, bangle shop, selling bangles door to door.

Please follow us on Facebook for more stories.

https://www.facebook.com/tiljalashed/

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Organization Information

Tiljala Society for Human and Educational Development

Location: Kolkata, West Bengal - India
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @TiljalaSHED
Project Leader:
Jane Manson
Kolkata, West Bengal India
$44,834 raised of $80,000 goal
 
370 donations
$35,166 to go
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